CAT (Cognitive Ability Tests) In Year Seven

What are year seven CAT tests?

CAT tests are tests given in state schools in year seven. They are used to measure potential and to some degree to highlight potential difficulties children may be facing.

Schools also use them to rank the ‘quality/potential’ of one cohort vs another for their own internal use.

They are also sometimes used by schools as part of their justifications to Ofsted regarding added value or efficient measurement of progress.

Are CAT tests used to put children into sets in their new state schools?

Schools say no and indeed the fact that the tests are not curriculum based in many ways supports that view, however some schools do say that they tend to use CAT results to build up a picture of individual children in addition to their early work and their previous SATS results.

Clearly getting into top sets can have a huge impact on a child’s future so in our judgement it is well worth considering that CATS might have some setting impact for children.

Can you prepare children for CAT tests in year seven?

The simple answer is yes you can. Children who have done verbal reasoning or non-verbal reasoning tests as part of their 11 Plus tests will already be familiar with much of what CAT tests in year seven contain. Those children who have not gone to a grammar school or prepared for a verbal reasoning or non-verbal reasoning test can quite quickly boost their CAT test performance through a little familiarisation.

Should parents help their children to prepare for CAT tests?

Let’s be clear, the schools and indeed the testing bodies don’t want parents to help their children at all, they want clean data. However those self-same schools know if they are Grammar Schools that all their children will already have had lots of preparation in Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning and so the results will be somewhat skewed already. Equally while schools also say parents shouldn’t prepare their children for the 11 Plus they know full well preparation is widespread and yet are still content with the results.

It’s no doubt a difficult area, some parents will choose to give their children a bit of familiarisation, and others will feel there’s nothing to be gained from it so will avoid it.

What type of questions do CAT tests cover in year seven?

CAT tests in year seven cover a range of questions covering Verbal Reasoning, Non-Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning.

The question breakdown for year seven children is as follows:

  • Verbal Reasoning Battery:
    • Verbal Classification
    • Verbal Analogies
  • Quantitative Reasoning Battery:
    • Number Analogies
    • Number Series
  • Non-Verbal Reasoning Battery:
    • Figure Classification
    • Figure Matrices
  • Spatial Ability Battery:
    • Figure Analysis
    • Figure Recognition

How long is the year seven CAT test?

Normally it is 1.5 hours long with 50 minutes on each section. The test is normally administered on computer and schools like to give children little warning that the test is coming. Many manage this gently saying perhaps in assembly that children will undergo some computer testing as a benchmark against which they can manage future progress, they’ll be told it is a test which they can’t fail etc. (all of which is true of course).

Many children find the test enjoyable as there’s no pressure and the puzzle format is quite enjoyable in many ways.

How to practice for the year seven CAT test- what materials to use?

While schools don’t want children to practise the test many parents remain concerned about how the results are used and equally feel that a little familiarisation can’t harm them.

GL ( the CAT test supplier for most schools) restrict the purchase of tests to schools only, however they do give some detailed examples which can be found in the document below which you can download as a PDF ( example questions from page 8 onwards).

CAT Test Example Questions

Many of these types of questions appear in GL tests for Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning and a child who feels comfortable with these sorts of tests no doubt will feel comfortable with the CAT tests. While the formats may change a little, if children want to familiarise themselves a little then we’d recommend the following titles to have a go at to do a little familiarisation.

Bond 11+ Verbal Reasoning 12+ Book 2

Bond 11+ Non-verbal Reasoning 12+ Book 2

How accurate are CAT tests at predicting future performance at GCSE?

From all the feedback we have seen the answer has to be that the tests can be wildly inaccurate at the individual level but perhaps schools feel they have more value at the cohort level.

In our view at this stage of development and bearing in mind the content of GCSE exams those children who develop the best organisational skills tend to be the ones who really deliver on their potential. In short children who are organised have a better chance of performing to their potential than those that aren’t and the problem is that the CAT test can’t tell you how likely a child is to develop and sustain great organisational skills.

Equally there are lots of other areas which will come together to define how a child develops and eventually performs at GCSE and much of this is beyond the school’s reach and certainly beyond the ability of a CAT test to measure. Examples of things which influence a child’s development include:

  • Their older sibling’s attitude and results
  • Their parent’s support and encouragement or lack of it
  • The attitude and approach of their friendship group
  • What they eat and drink
  • Their sleeping habits
  • Their engagement with extra-curricular activities particularly exercise
  • How organised they are
  • How driven they are to do well
  • Whether they are a competitive individual or not
  • Their response to goal setting / target setting or belief in how well they could do
  • Etc.

Our view is that CAT testing can only give a small and in many ways irrelevant snapshot of a child’s potential and that because there are so many moving parts that will define how well or poorly children do that it can never be a useful predictive tool for GCSE performance, certainly at the individual level.

Why do schools continue with CAT testing in year seven if it is not predictive of future individual performance?

Schools use CAT testing in year seven as part of the measures they use to see how a pupil might perform and see how well the school has done at helping them achieve that level. At the cohort level it is probably more useful than at the individual level.

Equally targets schools are set mean they have to have measures in place and using CAT testing (whatever its faults) is one way of them demonstrating that they are professionally monitoring their pupils performance and how the school is helping those pupils reach their potential.

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